“What about Digger?” I asked, more to shake her up than because I thought it was him.
“No, why, what? Why would Digger???” Kayla couldn’t finish the sentence with the proper amount of indignation it called for, possibly since she remembered that I had her packet of blackmail material.
“Tosca,” I said softly, watching Kayla’s face. It drained of what little color she had retained, and I knew I’d scored a palpable hit. I also knew, however, that if Digger was involved in this, Tosca wasn’t in on it. Why? Because Mob didn’t do namby-pamby kidnappings with little to no real pain involved. If Tosca had ordered the pick-up, well, let’s just say that Danny would have been more of a mess than he’d sounded on the tape.
“Um, Italy?” Kayla’s laugh rang hollow, and not even she looked convinced by it.
“That’s it, I’m leaving,” I said, standing up abruptly. As much as I wanted to help Danny, I couldn’t deal with this coked-up, strung-out bitch.
“Wait, um, Scar.” Kayla made a grabbed my arm and nearly tumbled again. As she would have taken me with her, it behooved me to help her stay on her feet. “Please don’t go. I know I’ve been a pain in the ass, but I really need your help.” A Girl Scout couldn’t have looked more sincere, but I trusted Kayla as much as I’d trust Jet with a cute boyfriend.
“Give me one reason I shouldn’t walk out of this house and never come back.” I was steaming, and I wasn’t going to come cheap. “From the start, you’ve been outright lying and lying by omission. You’ve been more of an obstacle than a help, and I have to wonder what else you have to hide.”
“Sit down, please?” Kayla’s tone was normal rather than whiney or like a little girl’s, which was probably why I sat back down. Matt sat next to me on the couch, and the two of us looked expectantly at Kayla. She sat on the hardback chair opposite, not quite able to meet either of our eyes.
“Well?” I said impatiently when Kayla continued to do her impression of a statue.
“I’ve done some things I don’t feel very good about,” Kayla said softly, looking down at the ground. “You know about some of them from what I’ve told you but also what’s in the packet. I swear, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone—well, not really, and it all just got out of hand.” I forbore from pointing out that blackmailing people hurt them even if they may deserve some of that pain. I knew that nothing I said would dent Kayla’s world view of herself. I was just grateful to have her talking, so I kept my big mouth shut for once. “But, um, there was this incident…” Her voice trailed off as she looked more uncomfortable than I’d ever seen her before. I took that as a good sign.
“Take your time, Kayla,” Matt said gently, patting Kayla on the hand. I restrained a sigh because I really got tired of playing the bad cop all the time, but I was better at it than Matt was. Besides, in this instant, I didn’t think I’d cut the mustard as the good guy. “I know this is difficult, but it’s imperative for you to say it.”
“I ran over a kid while I was strung out,” Kayla blurted out, her eyes darting to Matt’s face as she announced her news. I was stunned as this wasn’t something I was expecting in a million years. “See, I was having a really bad week last week, and I don’t usually snort up until I get home from the club, but I couldn’t wait this time so I just did a little to take the edge off. It was raining, and I have bad night-vision, anyway. This kid comes out of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, just running across the road. I tried to stop, but I must have hit the wrong pedal because the car sped up as it hit her.” Her eyes pleaded with Matt’s to understand, but he didn’t. I didn’t, either, as there was too much about her story that didn’t make sense. I kept quiet, however, as I wanted to hear everything before I lambasted her. Matt, however, didn’t have as much restraint.
“Shit, Kayla, what the fuck you talking about? Why would a kid be out in the middle of the night?”
“I don’t mean a kid-kid,” Kayla said, hanging her head in shame. “I mean a teenager. She just came out of nowhere, I swear! It was near Hennepin Avenue, downtown.” Shit. I knew the kid she was talking about. The seventeen-year old girl was in the hospital in a coma, and her father was wild out of his mind with grief. He was a single parent who had lost his wife to cancer a year ago, and he was determined to find the person responsible for putting his daughter in the hospital. He wasn’t talking about bringing in the cops, either. He was a good ol’ boy from Texas, and he had a frontiersman’s sense of justice. He didn’t take kindly to having his daughter being found by the cops an hour after she’d been hit—at least, that was the doctor’s estimation.
“Goddamn it, Kayla. Can’t you do anything right?” Matt bellowed the words I longed to say myself. This woman was a walking disaster area, guaranteed to kill any human life that entered her zone.
“Don’t yell at me,” Kayla sniffled, shrinking back from us. This time, I could see genuine remorse in her face, though not enough to, oh, tell the cops. The accident had been reported as a hit-and-run, which meant she’d left the scene of a crime. “I know I fucked up, I know I did a bad thing.”
“You left her lying in the middle of the street,” I said, my voice low. I didn’t trust myself to get show my anger because I knew it would blow out of control. “She could have gotten run over again. Maybe she wouldn’t have been in a coma if you’d called the police immediately. What the fuck were you thinking?”
“Don’t you think I think about that all the time?” Kayla yelled, her eyes flashing. Frankly, no, I didn’t think she gave it more than a passing thought. “Why do you think I’m dosing so heavily? I have to do something to take my mind off it.”
“How about doing the right thing for once in your sorry life?” Matt asked, his voice raising. Unlike me, he had no qualms about getting good and angry. “A girl’s life is in danger thanks to you, and you don’t even bother to call the cops anonymously to help her. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“Stop yelling at me,” Kayla said, her voice tiny. “I know I fucked up, ok? Is that what you want to hear?”
“No, what I want to hear is you’ll confess to the cops,” Matt said, glaring at Kayla. “If you don’t, I’ll tell them.”
“I’m glad you told us that,” I cut in, wanting to get the conversation back on track. “I don’t think the father’s the one who took Danny, however. He’d be more likely to shoot you in the back of the head than to take your kid.” Kayla winced, but I was too mad to care about her delicate sensibilities. She was about to say something when her doorbell sounded. It was the cops, of course. I hoped it was only Detective Martinez, but of course Ms. Grim was with him as well. She scowled when she saw me, but I didn’t let her see me sweat. It wasn’t my fault some ninety-pound Japanese bimbo had taken her man from her, and I’d be damned if I let her make me feel guilty because of my race.
“Ms. Hsu, I’ll talk to you in the kitchen while Detective Daily talks with Ms. Richardson in the living room. Mr. Reynolds, I don’t know where you’re going to go, but you can’t be in either room.” Detective Martinez had just the right voice for ordering people around, though Detective Daily didn’t seem to think so. My guess was that she wanted to grill me about the package; I was grateful that Detective Martinez had preempted her by taking me for himself. I flushed at the way that sounded in my head, glad that I hadn’t actually said it out loud. I followed Detective Martinez to the kitchen, noticing that he looked haggard. I knew that cops didn’t get much sleep, especially not homicide cops; Detective Martinez looked as if he could use a two-week vacation to Jamaica.
“Ms. Hsu, please sit.” Detective Martinez gestured to one of the chairs around the small table in the corner of the kitchen. He took the briefcase he was holding and set it on the table before resting his palms on it. I sat down, looking at him questioningly as he remained standing. “You said you saw one of the captors take Danny’s shirt off him. Describe the t-shirt, please.” I hesitated before answering. Not because I didn’t know—I did—but because I wasn’t sure I wanted to give him the right answer. Right now, I was Detective Daily’s number one suspect, and I had a hunch that she would consider my knowledge of what the shirt looked like to be the proverbial nail in my coffin. Detective Martinez must have guessed what I was thinking because he added, “Ms. Hsu, let me assure you that in no way will this prejudice me against you. I just want to see how legit you are.” I wasn’t completely reassured, but I didn’t want to hinder the investigation, so I decided to trust him. For now.
“It was light blue with a pink pig on it,” I said, watching his face carefully. I could tell by the tightening of his lips that I was correct. Without replying, he opened the briefcase and drew out a plastic baggie. He swung it my way, cautioning me not to touch it. My stomach sank as I caught sight of the light-blue fabric with some pink on it. I didn’t need to see the details to know that I had pictured it correctly. Even though this had happened to me before, it still startled me when one of my visions was confirmed. Detective Martinez dropped the baggie back into his briefcase before shutting the case.
“Ms. Hsu, I want you to do something for me if you will.” Detective Martinez still wouldn’t sit down, which was beginning to make me uncomfortable. “I want you to see if you can see the captors, really see them. Even a vague description would be better than none.” It took me a minute to realize that he was asking me for my help, which meant I had passed his test.
“Ok, Detective Martinez,” I said, stifling a sigh. I knew that trying to conjure up a picture on demand would be difficult and possibly painful, but I had to give it the old college try. “Can you not stare at me, please?” Normally, I didn’t care who looked at me, but there was something disconcerting about him that was interfering with my ability to concentrate. Maybe it was the dimple in his cheek when he smiled—which wasn’t too often. Maybe it was the hint of something less than—or more than, depending on your point of view—professional in his eyes. Whatever it was, I had to be free of it if I was to have any hope of doing what he wanted.
Detective Martinez obligingly dropped his eyes to the table as I closed my own eyes. I breathed deeply and evenly, trying not to be too self-conscious about Martinez. I had a feeling that he had lifted his eyes the minute I closed mine, but I wasn’t going to risk peeking to find out. I placed my hands on the table and tried to focus on my breath. It was starting from somewhere in my solar plexus, and it was exiting through my mouth. I found it easier to breathe that way rather than through my nose, and I didn’t even care that I looked like a fish. I was conscious of feeling slightly ridiculous which receded when I caught a glimpse of one of Danny’s captors, the male one. He was in the middle of doing something to Danny, though I couldn’t quite decipher what. It wasn’t something good, however, and it made Danny cry piteously. My heart went out to the little boy, and I tried to see what I could. The vision faded, however, when I tried to focus on it.
“Damn,” I muttered, forcing myself to be still again. I forgot about Detective Martinez watching me and called out to Danny again. “Danny, can you hear me?” I asked in my head, not really thinking I’d get a reply. To my amazement, a picture of Danny popped in my head, and he was looking puzzled. His captor was still in the room, but Danny wasn’t paying attention to him. He was also wearing an oversized t-shirt, presumably because he no longer had the pig one. “Danny, listen to my voice. Do you know me?” I wasn’t sure it would work as he’d only met me a few times. He’d really liked me, however, calling me Auntie to prove it. Kayla hadn’t liked that, but she hadn’t protested, either. I guessed there was some good in her.
“Auntie?” To my absolute delight, I heard Danny’s childish voice although it was so faint, I wasn’t sure what he’d said. “….you?”
“What was that?” Damn connection. This was like talking on a cell phone in a dead zone—he was fuzzing in and out.
“I’m in your head, darling,” I said, hoping he’d understand. “Can you tell me where you are? In your head, I mean. Not out loud.” I know, I should have asked how he was doing, but I figured I didn’t have much time. I needed information to find him, and I was hoping he knew something.
“…sparkle…man…cold…stone…water…scared…Mommy!” Suddenly, Danny’s head snapped back, and his lip was bleeding. Apparently, the male captor wasn’t above a little corporal punishment.
“Danny, who has you? Can you tell me that?” I asked urgently. My connection was fading quickly, and I wanted to get as much out of him as I could.
“Danny, baby, hold on, ok? Can you tell me anything else?” I didn’t have much hope. He was only two—what could he possibly tell me.
“Auntie…come…me!” Danny’s head snapped back again, and there was a hand print on his cheek. For a minute, I saw the captor’s face, and it was one I’d never seen before. I focused on it, knowing it would fade at any minute. Sure enough, it was gone in three seconds. I slumped over my seat, drained from my interaction with Danny. It also made me more resolved to find him, but first, I needed to rest.